Part 3: “Maintenance and Growth”
Third and final of a trilogy. You can get up to speed with the first two parts of the addiction trap instalments below.
Part 1 <<Read More>>…
Part 2 <<Read More>>…
Our last blog in this topic of Men vs Women in the addiction trap.
We have come to terms with our situation and we have asked for help. We have taken some steps and we have put in some work. We have taken a look at who we think we are and, quite often have found that we are simply crossing off who we are not. How do we keep it all going? Will it ever end?
Maintenance and growth go hand-in-hand: if we avoid maintenance, growth stops. If we stop growing, maintenance stops. There is a fine line between healthy self-observation and cloying self-obsession and often the only way to discern the difference is by experience. It really is possible to learn from our mistakes. The feedback loop we use is generally our feelings or moods. It is useful to remember that when in low mood the tendency to drift into self-obsession is more likely. When we don’t like the way we feel we can often become obsessed with either changing the way we feel, or become pre-occupied with crippling self- analysis. Somewhere along the way we can get a small amount of distance between the mind-chatter tone of self-obsession and realise “Oh yeah, there’s my mind trying to work it all out”. We get a sense, however slight, that we are not the thoughts.
Healthy self-observation or awareness can include observing our conduct, behaviours and reactions to others. This is can be done at the end of each day, moment-to moment, or both and whichever way we choose it is usually wise to aim for balance and not be too hard on ourselves or overly vain. The real fun starts when we observe internally, where feelings ‘land’ on us. We identify our buttons and triggers and soft-spots this way and these are usually the things that we can change; it is exhausting to try to change others. This is a form of self-inventory, and like most skills it gets better with practice. We all start off rather clumsily at first!
The next item on the agenda is meditation. We can start this part of the adventure at any time on our travels, yet it is probably most effective with a head free of mood and mind-altering substances. The word meditation is loaded in different ways for each of us. Some assume it involves head-shaving, naval contemplation and awkward sitting postures. It can seem like an ordeal. Others meditate in ways they do not personally label meditation, and these include countryside walkers, fishing enthusiasts and certain artists and professionals who all find ways to focus their attention on the task in hand. This is a really useful method to take the power away from other invasive thoughts. These activities can be called an informal meditation that we do naturally and enjoy.
The formal meditation techniques will also help us and this can be as little as ten minutes a day or one minute at a time. We have found that the simplest methods are the most effective. It is a good idea to use the breath as an anchor: it is something that we can bring our attention to when we see our minds have drifted off. Simply counting the breath or observing the rise and fall of the chest and stomach are profoundly simple ways to get some distance from the incessantly busy nature of mind. The rewards are sometimes linear, but not always. We can only really do what we can in the moment and move our attention away from our often unrealistic expectations. We put in the ‘work’ of meditation and observe the results.
‘Formal’ meditation tends to be most effective when we daily prepare a time and place where we are not going to be disturbed. We can find quite room, or a building, or natural space. We can turn off our phones and dedicate as few as ten minutes a day to rest and observe our thoughts. A little guidance can be helpful and today there are many props we can use to help. Our favourite is an app called Headspace. It can be downloaded for free and there is an option to pay a subscription although it is not a requirement; there is more than enough in the free component to get you started and beyond. There are many ways to meditate and you are encouraged to find a way that suits you.
Quite often the glimpses of clarity we see from these exercises steer us to engage in informal meditations that we can do day to day and moment to moment. Just one minute of quiet reflection and observation can work wonders. Waiting in line for our lunch or to buy a train ticket or sitting in traffic can be infuriating at times. When we see the absurdity for just one minute, the anger we feel and buy into, we can dilute the rage and even make it disappear. We see that we have been making it up, or to be more accurate, a part of our mind has been making it up.
To observe ourselves we find it helpful to split ourselves into just two parts: the observed and the observer, or what is seen and the seer. What is observed can seem to be many parts as we are rarely in the same emotional state for very long. We are often in at least ‘two-minds’. A useful analogy is the eye. It cannot see itself, only it’s reflection in a mirror. The ‘observed’ is our mirror, both internally and externally.
We can remember the rope we mentioned in Part 2. The ‘work’ does not stop. We continue to pull ourselves up, to get a higher view, a new perspective AND we help others up the rope. We reach out our hand to pull those ‘below’ us, we show them what we know, through experience. The key here is ‘Show don’t tell’. Not many of us like to be preached at, so we demonstrate by our actions, not our words.
This spirit of service connects us to others, gives us a sense of purpose, and re-directs our attention away from ourselves. Our struggles have a meaning.
Finally, in all that we do, whenever we can, we remember to remember to keep a sense of play in our actions and observations. This will help us grow into a less serious but more sincere being.
Headspace is meditation made simple. Learn online, when you want, wherever you are, in just 10 minutes a day